Hilarious if unlikely rom-com pairs Theron, Rogen
Part of the appeal of movie romantic comedies is their highly implausible nature. Billy Crystal’s Harry would never end up with Meg Ryan’s Sally (When Harry Met Sally). A high-powered businessman would never, ever fall for a Sunset Boulevard hooker (Pretty Woman). The uptight career woman wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t emotionally connect with the roguish, underachieving stoner from the wrong social circles (your choice from Matthew McConaughey’s movies). And if any of these unlikely pairings did actually occur, it wouldn’t end well. But, audiences love these love stories all the same because they are, ultimately, exercises in hope.
The biggest joke in the new rom-com, Long Shot, is that this most incredible of pairings—Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen—takes the central conceit of romantic comedies and turns it up to 11. It’s even in the title of the movie. The premise is made even more ridiculous because Theron’s character, Charlotte Field, aspires to become the first female president of the United States while involved with Fred, Rogen’s nonconforming, mudraking journalist who apparently only has one teal windbreaker in his wardrobe. The filmmakers are fully aware of the implausibility, and find it hysterically funny. Theron and Rogen find it funny as well, and play along with infectious enthusiasm.
Charlotte, who’s serving as Secretary of State for a president (Bob Odenkirk) who played the president on a successful TV show, has ambitions for his office. An earnest, caring diplomat, Charlotte is told that her popularity research indicates a weak sense of humor. After a chance (and embarrassing) reunion at a fundraising event with her former babysitting charge, Fred, Charlotte hires him to punch up her speeches with his earthy humor. Eventually, Fred is entrusted with crafting the language of her entire campaign.
Nonsense, yes, but everyone knows it…and plays it strictly for laughs. The Long Shot screenplay, written by Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling (a veteran producer of TV comedy), is crammed full of zingy one-liners and crude punchlines. You’re on the right track for a comedy when the audience misses many of the jokes because it was still laughing at the last one. The entire film, as directed by Jonathan Levine, has an appealing, loosey-goosey rhythm that supports the offbeat chemistry between its two stars.
Theron, a truly glamorous movie star who nevertheless won an Oscar as a grimy serial killer in Monster, continues to demonstrate an incredible range in her roles and performances. Here she shows off her comedy chops while still managing to credibly assert political savvy. Rogen, who I have previously described in these pages as a one-trick pony, continues to find ways to extend that one trick and make it work in service of an engaging story. The two are ably assisted by June Diane Raphael and Ravi Patel as two of Charlotte’s officious staffers (with a randy secret). O’Shea Jackson, Jr., who captured filmgoers’ attention in Straight Outta Compton, brings humanity to the thankless role of Rogen’s best friend. And Odenkirk reminds everyone of his comic bona fides as the oblivious, distracted current commander-in-chief, a tongue-in-cheek synthesis of George Bush’s cluelessness and Trump’s TV celebrity roots.
Long Shot aspires to little more than entertaining its audience, but it accomplishes that task with relish and just a touch of unexpectedly snarky vulgarity. It made me laugh, and wince, and groan, and, like all true rom-coms, tear up a little. It gets my vote.
Also Coming in May: The Hustle, caper comedy with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, May 10; tear-jerking story of a boy and his reincarnated dog, A Dog’s Journey, May 17; the latest live action remake of a Disney animated classic, Aladdin, May 24; and Godzilla: King of Monsters terrorizes an all-star cast, May 31.
Long Shot: 4 out of 5 Stars